The channel between Malta and Gozo is just 5 kms wide, and it takes less than 25 minutes for the ferry to cross from one island to the next. And yet, it’s one of the most evocative journeys we are likely to make in our lifetime – perhaps the first to be burnt into our memory banks.
No matter how many times we’ve made the crossing, no matter the season, we are all children when the ferry is about to head out of Cirkewwa, when it is hovering past the entrance to the Blue Lagoon in Comino, when it is approaching Mgarr.
Catching the ferry is part of our vernacular – whether you just visit ‘the other island’ a couple of times a year, or you’re part of that hardy, almost mythical tribe from the sister island of Gozo that braves the daily crossing. You must know someone like this: they arrive slightly dishevelled for a morning meeting, do nervous clock-watching in the afternoons, and spend weekends in what is still the greener, softer of our three islands.
The crossing is a gentle assault to our senses. For we all have snapshots in our head from our time on the ferry.
Just focus: you can feel the wind in your hair, taste that ice-cream shared on a slatted bench, remember a snatched conversation. Laughter. Twinkling lights. And then the descent – to the sickly sweet smell of gasoline in the hold, as you struggle to get into a car, bending car mirrors, or shuffle out as a foot-passenger. Knowing that at some stage, the nose-cone will open and you, too, will drive or walk out. And transit – to the other island, to what’s next.
Photo: Mario George Vella